I work with a number of Jewish lawyers and one in particular is very frum (observant). So much so that he in his Orthdox community has the honor of attending to the dead and leads services in his Orthodox shul.
So needless to say over the years he and I have had some delightful conversations about Orthodox Judaism and Messianic Judaism. He has invited me to his children’s bar and bat mitzvot and I have shared our teachings with him. Those times are so interesting as when we do he puts on his yarmulke to honor our common understanding of the holiness of this dialogue, brother to sister.
With that as background, I have to share the conversation we had last week.
We were discussing our upcoming Passover plans. He explained that he and his family would be going to his wife’s brother’s house and what a challenge it would be. He reiterated how observant he is but that at his in-law’s house, since they are Hasidic, no one will be allowed to eat matza that has become wet (gebrochts), including matza balls and other matza meal products that would have any liquid in contact with the matza.
He quipped he feels he needs to wear a bib since it is verboten for even a crumb of matza to hit the table which may cause it to touch wine or soup that may have spilled. So no matza ball soup, fried matza brei, matza meal cakes, and the like at least for the first two night seders. He was complaining that he felt like a heathen at their table, like he didn’t know what a Jew was supposed to do.
Oh my goodness. I couldn’t resist! I shared with him, “Hey! Now you know how I feel around you!” We both got a good laugh out of the irony of one of the most observant Jews I know feeling inadequate about being a good Jew. He was able to see that a perceived required observance may go a little too far. Or at least that there can be varying viewpoints on the matter. Somewhere among all the ways that we try to follow our Abba’s covenant with His people there are sweet spots. The point is to try. And not to judge. For truthfully in our Abba’s eyes, we all fall short.
Isn’t the whole point of our lives to serve Him the best we can? Passover offers us such a wonderful opportunity to grow in this area. Whether you go to any of the measures discussed above, now is the time to prepare our bodies, minds, and spirits to enter into that journey from bondage which Passover commemorates. The details of how we do that are not as important as just becoming mindful of the quest.
Passover reminds us of our exodus from Egypt. Particularly at the seder as we partake of the glass of wine of redemption we are drawn to thoughts of Yeshua’s sacrifice for us, freeing us from the bondage of mankind’s sinfulness. And daily we are given the opportunity to free ourselves from such bondages – gluttony, pride, addictions, jealousy, selfishness, greediness, the list is endless – to make choices that free us from those human challenges that separate us from Him. I do believe that being more observant creates opportunities to remind us of His presence. The many observances that my colleague follows are covenantal disciplines that help him on this path.
Where each of us is on that continuum is a matter of choice. In my heart of hearts I bet our Abba would love that our choices would be a little more in line with what He has asked us to do covenantly. For example, keeping Shabbat. And I think following the dietary laws is on that list. But what does that mean? It’s not an all or nothing proposition. Not eating shellfish, or mixing milk with meat, is a start. At the other extreme, some believe their matza should not get wet. Wherever we are in the journey, each choice’s purpose is to remind us of our covenant with HaShem and to bring us closer to Him by these practices. And that’s exactly what we do is practice – every Shabbat kept (in the many ways it can be done) and each dietary law followed (on the continuum) helping us to be mindful of the relationship we have with Him.
As my office antecdote illustrates, so much of our ways to honor our Abba through our observances is relative. How such an observant Orthodox Jew could feel as challenged on this subject as I as a Messianic Jew was a humbling reality check to my Orthodox colleague and an encouragement to me. The point is we both are trying.
As this Passover season arrives, I encourage you to use this as a time to renew your efforts to walk with Him in covenantal closeness. Rather than focus on what we can’t do, how this or that may be too hard, or maybe seemingly meaningless, why not try? And more importantly, why not try to engage in the significance of the observance, focus on how it is intended to separate you from the mundane and to facilitate your ability to focus on Him. How discouraged must the enslaved Jews have felt after centuries of bondage. Yet they acted. The Dead Sea did part and they were freed. How utterly hopeless for humanity must Yeshua have felt as His words fell on deaf ears? Yet He chose to die for us. He rose. He lives. And through Him our sins are forgiven.
Living a more HaShem centered life fills us with His light. I encourage you during these holy days to be open to the many new ways you can draw to Him in covenantal closeness, ways that you choose to understand, commit to, and embrace meaningfully. May your matza be not too dry, not too wet, just right.